Two crucial press releases came out of the TxDOT offices at the end of last week. Both address East/West connectivity in the I-35 corridor, and show positive movement towards solving neighborhood issues.
“To that end, TxDOT is asking for feedback from stakeholders living in neighborhoods adjacent to the roadway. … Information gathered from the survey will be used by the project team to better understand east/west connectivity issues and other special concerns of the neighborhoods.”
The second major announcement was a direct result of neighborhood feedback on TxDOT’s Implementation Plan over the past few months:
“In response to stakeholder concerns regarding the initial proposals, TxDOT, in partnership with the city of Austin, has worked to develop alternative concepts that address the neighborhoods’ needs for east/west connectivity while also satisfying mobility needs within the corridor. As a result, TxDOT is pleased to announce Woodland Avenue and St. Johns Avenue are to remain open to vehicle traffic and closure is no longer under consideration.
“The refined concepts [for Woodland and St. John’s] can be found atwww.mobility35.org/solutions. The revised concepts will be reflected in the planned 2014 update to the Mobility 35 Plan.”
1. What is the name of the highway? Please list any official and non-official names.
2. What city/state does the highway travel through?
3. If you know the beginning address, intersection or geographic coordinate, please enter it below:
4. If you know the ending address, intersection or geographic coordinate, please enter it below:
5. Describe the highway and why you recommend its removal. Please include any information about maintenance, surrounding land uses, and traffic conditions. If you have images or can provide more detailed information, please email Alex McKeag at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Highways” in the subject heading.
Since it replaced Austin’s historic East Avenue, I-35 has been an economic, social, cultural, and racial barrier. Now, the highway’s bridges through the urban core of Austin are over 50 years old, necessitating reconstruction. This is the most congested highway section in Texas, carrying 200,000 cars a day through America’s Fastest Growing City (according to the Forbes measure of population and economy). As a NAFTA corridor, I-35 cannot simply be removed. However, one must recognize its immense impact on downtown, and the unique urgency of this moment, in which TxDOT is moving forward on improvements all along the Central Texas I-35 corridor. A proposal has come forward to lower the main lanes of this one mile stretch of I-35, cover that mile with a continuous cap, and place a city boulevard on top. The at-grade boulevard would be reconnected to the surface cross streets and the land where the frontage roads now sit would be converted to developable land…This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remove Austin’s historic blight and reconnect the city.
6. Are there any proposals or initiatives to remove this highway? Please list any groups or community leaders or groups who are currently involved.
Reconnect Austin (www.reconnectaustin.com) is a volunteer effort to catalyze a community conversation regarding the future of I-35.
“The Texas Department of Transportation has also taken note of the problems with 35,notingthat the design of this highway causes decreased speeds and increased congestion. Something has to be done, and thetwo plansTxDOT proposes include one conventional solution (simply updating the current infrastructure) and one new solution (creating a depression for traffic lanes from 8th Street to Holly Street).
“Doing a conventional update on the highway would just be more of the same. Depressing the lanes is a good start, but then you have wasted space at street level. The Reconnect Austin plan proposes to actually bury those depressed lanes, creating more “people space” where car space used to be. When this was done in Boston, the “capped” area became public park space. It’s a beautiful promenade of sorts that runs through the middle of the city. People sit on the benches or get some exercise during their lunch breaks.
“In addition to the additional green space, the cut and cap option would also provide more developable land that’s now consumed by on and off ramps. Reconnect Austin says 30 acres of frontage road could be turned into prime real estate for businesses, restaurants and homes. As more people see what can be created when we replace concrete structures with green space and people-focused space, maybe more people will be encouraged to get out of their cars and exist in that space.”